“Then I will draw near to you for judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers and against the adulterers and against those who swear falsely, and against those who oppress the wage earner in his wages, the widow and the orphan, and those who turn aside the alien and do not fear Me,” says the LORD of hosts. Malachi 3:5
In the spirit of the wild-eyed, fist-waving, in-your-face Old Testament prophets, I will be blunt: the current federal minimum wage is an absolute, unjust abomination that is nothing short of a stench in God’s nostrils.
There was a time when we could tell a young person that “a job, any job, can help you get ahead in life, if you just work hard enough.” Now, only the most dim person would offer that advice.
The math of modern employment for many people simply doesn’t work anymore. Forty hours at the current minimum wage will not provide enough income to rent an apartment, buy groceries, pay utilities and furnish transportation to the job. Also, day care. And if you were thinking about loftier goals — savings, college for yourself or your children, or retirement accounts — your paycheck is an even bigger joke.
Dig deeper, and it gets even crazier.
How do we cope with so many people working for poverty wages? Well, the only choice is to help them, because helping them is preferable to mass starvation or widespread riots. State and federal governments provide assistance like food stamps and other aid that helps the working poor to at least eat.
Isn’t it weird that many of the country’s largest employers — retailers and fast food companies — pay low wages, bank massive profits, and yet someone like me is subsidizing their unsustainable business model with my tax dollars that keep their employees alive? Not one of them has sent me a thank you note!
Being stingy, then, is not only immoral; it’s inefficient. It creates the very thing conservatives say they hate: government dependence. Yet they twist themselves into logic pretzels to defend such pitiful wages. And the most radical among them have even suggested that there should be no minimum wage at all. Everyone get in line for those $1.25 jobs!
Allowing the minimum wage to steadily decrease in purchasing power over the course of four straight decades, even as national productivity has increased, is a sign of a society with a twisted moral compass.
I believe the Christian has been called “for such a time as this”, advocating for better pay and an economic system that once again rewards work, believes everyone should be treated with dignity, and provides clear paths out of poverty. When only the wealthiest benefit from the productivity increases that all of us have helped engender, the society is corrupt to the core. And eventually it will crumble and die. Let’s insist on justice before it’s too late.
Prayer: That God would give us the strength to win this battle for justice and fairness even as powerful forces align against us.
Read: Proverbs 29